In the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, tributes flooded the community to the extent that the town is now "emotionally overtaxed" with donations and letters of grief, solidarity, and sorrow — not least of all because of a digital outpouring of emotion. Now you can see some of those letters in this Tumblr, a project of Mother Jones, Tumblr Storyboard, and Ross Macdonald, a Newtown resident and illustrator. The letters in Letters to Newtown come from both adult organizations — the Islamic Center of Long Island sent a note to Chris Murphy — and small individuals. One card features handprints from those who have only been in the world for mere months:
Another advises that pie might make people feel better:
Another asks Santa to help grieving families:
Newtown has received so many letters since the tragedy they are, nearly two months later, at something of an impasse. Newtown is running out of space and it is emotionally difficult to be reminded of the shooting day in and day out. In today's New York Times Peter Applebome writes:
They are trying to balance respect and practicality, the need to remember and the need to move on, the options presented by the digital world and the power of the tangible artifacts in pen and paper, crayon and paint, glitter and cotton balls, fabric and thread.
Applebome, who has written extensively on the effects of the shooting on the town and the victim's families since December, says that it's unclear what's going to happen to all of the condolences. Macdonald — who has also created a separate website, Be Kind Anyway — explains in an essay on the Tumblr:
The town very respectfully cleared away most of the outdoor public memorials after a couple of weeks for incineration, the ash to be incorporated into a future permanent memorial site. When it announced that it would be doing the same with the cards and letters, we knew we had to try to save them. The town is emotionally overtaxed and lacks the funds and space to preserve them. But they are important to save—as an ongoing reminder of what happened and as a record of the world’s response.
You can learn more about the community's dilemma in dealing with these symbols of outreach in this video from Mother Jones:
In the Tumblr, at least, is a tragic but also — in many ways — beautiful and heartening digital archive of kindness.